In a recent trip to Seoul, I visited popular beauty shops researching the latest trends and new products on the market.
Korea has been hailed the Silicon Valley of beauty known for it's neck-breaking speed in spitting out new products as well as a hot spot where trends emerge quickly. Everyone's always asking - what's the next big thing? After BB creams proliferated through the US in 2008 and cushion compacts came onto the market via L'Oreal in 2015, US consumers and beauty companies look to Korea to see what has the potential to be the next big product category.
Unfortunately, the reality is that currently there isn't anything as transformative as those products at the moment. Rather, there are many micro-trends taking root that I believe have the potential to also become micro-trends in the US.
Here are some guesses as to which of these micro-trends in Korea might make it to be more mainstream in the West.
Finger Mitts/Finger Pads
The finger pad is nothing new in the US. We have it in the mass category with brands like Clearasil and their Cleansing Pads or more masstige/prestige category with brands like Dr. Dennis Gross and their One Step Acne Eliminating Pads. The ones that exist in the US are pre-soaked round cotton pads that are single use and usually soaked in an acid (salicylic acid, AHAs/BHAs) and promote healing acne, skin resurfacing, or wrinkle care.
The next gen ones from Korea take it to the next level in a few ways. First, in Korea, the finger pads are now also soaked in moisturizing serum and marketed as a new moisturizer category. Cosrx launched their One Step Moisture Up Pad product in Korea and reviews have been very positive. Other brands like Wish Formula launched I'm Pro Ampoule Pad - M, which similarly is for moisturizing.
In addition to extending into moisturizers, Korean brands are also creating next gen versions which consist of little pockets, which is why I'm calling them "finger mitts" . Some of them also have a little strap which you can use to hold the product with your fingers.
There are two-sided exfoliating finger mitts with one side covered in a gommage peel type of ingredient which acts as a physical exfoliator. The other side is soaked in an acid and acts as a chemical exfoliator. Single use, individually packaged, these are great for travel. You've seen examples of this at Soko Glam through Neogen and at Glow Recipe via the brand Salon de Tte.
Wish Formula makes a patented next level version which is a pre-soaked cushion with a cushion center and mesh weave . When mixed with water and squished, it lathers up like a soap.
This format has really been proliferating in Korea on the beauty seen with niche brands and I think these finger pads and finger mitts are about to come to the US in bigger way.
This is a product category that LG has patented with the sum:37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick. The concept is quite simple - it's a soap bar in a stick format - but it's simplicity is ingenious. belif, another LG Health and Household brand, also leverages this format with their True Tincture Chamomile Cleansing Stick carried at Sephora.
Charlotte Cho of Soko Glam and Neogen partnered together to create a the Real Fresh Green Tea Cleansing Stick. And Milk Makeup has come out with a Matcha Stick Cleanser while boscia and Julep have also launched cleansing sticks within the past two years.
Powder cleansers have crept their way onto the scene but I think this product category is poised to potentially be a lot more mainstream in the US.
Korean brands IOPE, Tosowoong all have powder cleansers which have been touted by K-Beauty enthusiasts for their low pH and cleansing and exfoliating abilities. Also, they are travel friendly with a bit of a DIY element. Tatcha was one of the early brands in the US to introduce their powder cleanser. And now Estee Lauder brand Clinique is pushing it in a big way with their Fresh Pressed Renewing Powder Cleanser, a new single-serve powder cleanser format with vitamin C. I expect to see other brands follow suit with similar powder cleansers for their portability and efficacy.
Sometimes Korean beauty has influence in smaller ways with their product innovation and popularization. Oftentimes, it's the two hand-in-hand that work together to create beauty trends and Korea is one of the best places to look to for what might be coming.